Our 3-week Indonesia travel plan had started to unravel on just the 2nd day after our arrival in Java.
Following our misfortunes in Jepara, we were heading back to Semarang city to try to rescue our vacation from disaster.
With no credit cards and insufficient cash, we wouldn’t be able to continue our journey to the island paradise of Karimunjawa, where cash is the only form of payment accepted by almost all establishments.
Our next gambit would be to try to retrieve the card that was swallowed by the ATM machine in Semarang, before the bank had chance to destroy it (see Honey, the ATM ate my card). Our plan was to go first to the airport to see if we could find Arifin – the young TIC guy who had helped us the previous day. We would need an Indonesian speaker to interpret for us when we got to the bank.
However, Arifin hadn’t been answering his phone…
Minibus to Semarang City
After an early start in Jepara, we managed to locate the Alloy Executive Shuttle office (next to the Hotel Segoro) with just minutes to spare before their 07:00 am shuttle departure.
In the meantime, we’d applied masses of iodine and a temporary bandage to my ripped-up arm. The gash-wounds were in an awkward position, but infection was the main worry. Fortunately, we always carry a fairly extensive medical pouch.
We didn’t know it yet, but on this trip we were going to use it a lot.
The bus journey back to Semarang was quicker than the journey out, mainly because there were just 2 other passengers to pick up/drop off.
We paid IDR 22,500 each for the trip back.
The minibus first went directly to the TIC (Tourist Information Center) in the center of town. From there, the driver offered to take us on to the airport. When we got there 10 minutes later, he tried to rip us off for another IDR 100,000 for the ‘detour’.
Since we were in a hurry, I paid him IDR 50,000 before entering the Arrivals terminal.
Luckily for us, Arifin was there. I quickly explained the situation, and we again took another taxi to the bank. It was just after 10:30 am when we got there.
Back to the BTN Bank
Arifin had been able to speak to the Customer Relations lady, but again we had to sit and wait to see how things would turn out.
If we couldn’t get our card back, we would try to arrange a money transfer from someone back home using Western Union. This would take a day or two, since there was a 6-hour time difference between Central Europe and Indonesia, and the Western Union offices in Semarang close daily at 16:00 pm.
Our travel plan was already delayed by 2 days. We would be looking at a much greater delay, and a lot more stress, if we didn’t have a working credit card.
It was with some trepidation that we approached the bank’s Customer Relations desk when our turn came up. It was also with a large amount of surprise and relief that I saw my credit card shining up at me from the desk!
Happy Days… But is the card going to work?
I asked one of the bank staff ladies to accompany me to their in house ATM machine. Again I started my first transaction in English, and again the language automatically switched back to Indonesian while the ATM was still holding my card.
The good news was that I was able to withdraw cash and get back my card (with some translation assistance from the lady standing behind me).
Flushed with success, I made a further 2 transactions in quick succession, withdrawing a total of IDR 3.75 million (around €270). This would be enough for our (now-shortened) 9-day trip to Karimunjawa island.
In Indonesia, not all ATMs are created equal
We should note here that the other 3 ATM machines we used in Indonesia during this trip worked fine, with no language-switching problems. Just beware any free-standing ATM machine belonging to the BTN bank.
I tried to explain the problem to the Customer Relations lady at the bank, with Arifin interpreting for me. She just nodded and smiled sweetly.
As for Arifin, he really saved our bacon. With very little time, no Indonesian-language skills and little geographical knowledge of Semarang city, we would otherwise have been truly ‘up the creek without a paddle’.
… and a nicer guy you couldn’t hope to meet.
If you enjoyed Semarang City, check out our Central Java Travel Plan. You may also like: